This team of student leaders puts the U first

Student Government executive officers plan to utilize their strengths, knowledge, and experience to represent the student body and enhance student engagement on campus.
This team of student leaders puts the U first
Student Government Executive Board members Catherine De Freitas, Rafael Cariello and Evan De Joya. Photo: Mike Montero/UM News.

Since they were freshmen, Evan de Joya, Catherine “Cathy” De Freitas and Rafael “Rafa” Cariello have been deeply involved and dedicated to the student body. They have held leadership roles and worked to make positive change in the student experience at the University of Miami.

Now the “U First” team of three seniors will head up Student Government this academic year: de Joya as president, De Freitas as vice president and Cariello as treasurer. They hit the ground running following the spring election, and have been sitting down with administration and various University departments to see how practical their ideas were. 

 “The committees and involvements that I had really made me feel empowered to make changes on this campus,” de Joya said. “Seeing my own ability and this organization’s ability to make positive change really inspired me to run for this position.”

De Joya previously served on the Freshman Leadership Council alongside De Freitas during his sophomore year, and last year was part of the Academic Liaison Council. Cariello served on the Category 5 advisory board while also joining the Student Senate as a representative of the commuter student population.

Student Government’s platform aims to put students first with a variety of initiatives to enhance their experience at the U. The team has already worked to increase lighting in the red parking lot with Facilities Operations and Parking & Transportation Director Richard Sobaram, and Manager Marylluvia Resendiz.

De Freitas, who is passionate about leading the Freshman Leadership Council, is working persistently to introduce new food cart options on campus and umbrella rental for student access. The trio also wants to introduce subsidized Uber or Lyft rides originating from campus. 

“I think that’s something we are really interested in because we feel that it’s important to update the University’s transportation infrastructure to reflect the needs of our students,” de Joya said. “Our students aren’t taking taxis anymore and they aren’t riding the bus a whole lot. And so I think we really need to provide them with the resources that the 21st century student is going to be using.”

In addition to being an advocate for better student transportation options, the Student Government officers have piloted a feminine hygiene initiative that puts free sanitary napkins and tampons in bathrooms across campus. Another big project in the works is the introduction of a discussion series that will feature top celebrities and talent.

“We really felt that, not only is it valuable to have someone who is well-recognized within their field to come to campus but to also give students the opportunity to engage with them,” de Joya said.

The executive board forms the core leadership group of Student Government. They are responsible for leading and representing the entire student body to administration as well as meeting with the other branches to set guiding policies and work on campus-wide projects. 

While this is a huge responsibility, Cariello said that he wants to stay engaged with the student body to get the real student perspective.

“At the end of the day, this is a responsibility that we all chose to do and we want to help out,” Cariello said. “We really didn’t do this for attention. We want to go around campus and be ourselves and interact with our friends and the student body and at the end of the day be able to sit down in a meeting with administration to present student needs and concerns. We pride ourselves on getting that honest communication from students.”

De Freitas said their experiences as students has not changed and they plan to keep it that way. The only difference between them and others is that they have this added responsibility. The faculty, staff and alumni relationships have made their transitioning into their new roles a positive experience.

“We have great faculty and staff. I’ve never had any issues and now working closely with administration I think they really do care a lot to better campus life,” she said. “The ’Cane spirit is what gets everyone going as well. Everyone just wants to be happy.”

“Everyone here is just student-centered,” de Joya said. “That’s really what makes our initiatives work. This campus is so focused on enhancing the lives of its students.”

De Joya, originally from a northern suburb outside of Chicago, double majors in biology and geography, and will be attending the UM Miller School of Medicine in fall 2019. Cariello, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil moved to Miami when he was a child.  He double majors in economics and finance and spent his summer interning at Visa. De Freitas’s major is marketing and she hails from Parkland, Florida.  She plans to move to New York City upon graduating.